Klara and the Science Fiction

Did you know that I also read books?! 

You know, like novels???

I choose not to write about them because I haven’t dedicated my life to ever-deepening my understanding of the form, and I’m a rare breed who prefers to cede the floor to those who’ve put in the time and effort on such matters.

And yet!

My latest read, Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun, intersects with a genre near and dear to cinema, and its utilization of science-fiction tropes presents the wise flip-side to this dunderheaded expository coin (science fiction and exposition apparently rhyme for a reason).

At a time when universe building is all the commercial rage, artists tend to communicate their building through compartmentalized, segmented exposition; the progression of their stories halts in the name of explicitly explaining crucial information to the audience about the specific conditions of their far-flung fictional worlds. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again until I stop encountering poor examples: the least interesting way to communicate something to an audience is by laying it all out bare in straightforward words.

Ishiguro sets forth an alternative path:

My favorite science fiction worlds reflect enough of our own world to substantively engage with us, and the particular differences between the nature of existence in this fictional world and our own elucidates the author’s commentary on the facts of our lives and societies. Instead of deviating from the story to list these differences, Ishiguro trusts his readers to deduce them for ourselves. To fully comprehend what Ishiguro’s dishing out in Klara and the Sun, our brains should operate simultaneously on at least three levels while reading:

The first entails following the story, specifically the unfolding of the plot. As we move through the narrative — no explicatory detours necessary! — Ishiguro drops hints of the second level: gleaning the nature of his science-fiction world through the specific details of the story. Which leads us to the third level: contemplating how the story and the science-fiction world comments on the facts of, well, us.

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